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            “Is my order ready?” asked Quinn. She wore a clean white top and bottom wine red dress that would make it hard for anyone to believe she attended a military academy. Mines, on the other hand, was my academy uniform. Acceptable for any occasion. We had browsed around the market all morning before we reached a shop full of pieces of metal. There were dozens of items hung on the wall, all of which were of varies shapes and designs. Gauntlets were single plated with one sheet of steel protecting the wearer’s hand, others had triple plates, making them heavier, and the least common ones were made with chain-mail.

            “It’ll take a week with the amount of orders I have piled up,” said the armorer, an aged man with a long graying beard mixed with red hairs. “You also haven’t provided the measurements I need to complete it.”

            “I’ll send someone over later,” said Quinn, then turned her attention to me. “Lilia, why don’t try one out?”

            “How much for this one?” I pointed to a single plated gauntlet, right handed. The armorer walked up to me and had me try it on. The fit was almost perfect, except it was a little too tight around the wrist.

            “I can make this one for eight silver,” he said, which sounded a bit expensive. That was enough to pay for a month’s rent in the cheapest houses in Talica. And something else gave me this strange feeling in my stomach like something was off about this place. In here, there were no items that were price tagged. Quinn gave me this look, one brow raised.

            “He means for that one alone,” she said. And there it was. I was stuck standing there with a piece of very expensive metal on my hand. The armorer was still in the process of taking measurements to make the fit that much better. There was already a mark left on my skin from the tight fit.

            “How about fixing armor?” I asked.

            “Hmmm… well,” said the armorer, “repairs are easier than making these from scratch. If it’s minor, it would be the cost of the material, labor, and tax.”

            “So,” I said, “a dent on gauntlet?”

            “No more than one hundred copper,” he said. “Just an estimate. I can’t promise anything if I don’t see the item firsthand.”

            “So one silver.”

            We left the shop shortly after. I certainly had enough coin to have a pair made, but that would mean losing half my earnings for the month and asking my father is out of the question if I want to maintain a certain level of independence.

            “Where to next?” asked Quinn. We were standing with crowds walking past us. The city streets paved in cobblestone. Stores, and shops filled every house on this street. People browsing items to their likings, and making conversation with their friends or family. You could buy anything from bread and fresh vegetables one end of the streets, to metal works on the other. Kids were laughing louder than the few horse carriages passing by and snowcapped mountains completed the view.

            Quinn pulled my hand and guided me through the crowds of people. A great majority of the residents had the distinct red hair coloring that defined them as a person belonging to Talica. A Talician. The only ones that stuck out were foreigners. One in particular had this black long hair that didn’t shine under the sun, and Quinn was pulling me toward this person. Not just that, but I noticed people’s eyes naturally turned to look at her black coloring. A closer look and the person in black I saw wore Princess Glinn’s Royal Emblem on her right shoulder. Mercy. That’s what nobles of the higher class would call Princess Glinn and her emblem. One that had the image of a phoenix with a sheathed sword in front of its enemies.

            “Miss Alice!” Quinn called out to her. The woman in black stopped midway and look in our direction. She continued walking and Quinn pulled at me harder, speeding our movement until we caught up. Miss Alice gave us this piercing gaze as if we were bothering her.

            “May I help you?” she asked. Quinn let go of my hand and bent forward in front of Miss Alice.

            “I’m sorry,” she said, and kept her posture. “For the way I reacted in the hallway.”

            Miss Alice walked past Quinn. There was a sound coming from her mouth that sounded like she was saying ‘you are forgiven.’ I walked up to Quinn. She smiled.

* * *

            It was dark by the time we left for home in a carriage. The ride was filled with the sounds of the horse that pulled the cart as its hooves met the hard road. The carriage felt every uneven bump on the road and Quinn sat beside me with her head rested on my shoulder. Out the window I could see the stars and floating castles in the sky that orbited around Talica. The carriage stopped after an hour that it took to get to Quinn’s residence. I saw all my things in cases and bags laid out at the front door of her house. I tapped on Quinn’s head and she opened them halfway between woken and drowsy.

            “You’ll be staying for the rest of the holiday, right?” she asked, then yawned.

            I nodded before giving her a short ‘Yes,’ and grabbed some of my bags inside the house. Though I couldn’t really call it a house when comparing it to mines. From all the homes around us, I think Quinn’s was the biggest. Instead of being made of wood, it was stone. The inside was grandiose as always, with marbled white floors and stairs on both sides of the walls heading upstairs, and to top it off, a chandelier hanging in the middle of the room. There were groups of guys and girls in servant uniform, all wearing Quinn’s family emblem on their left shoulders. A red raven with, like all emblems, the Queen’s Phoenix pictured bigger. They all bowed.

            “Are your parent’s home?”

            “They’re out on business in Stanhal,” said Quinn.

            The servants began taking my things inside, along with all the items that Quinn bought from the markets that were waiting inside the horse carriage.

            “Send Lily’s things to my room,” Quinn ordered. “And have the training room ready.”

            “What?” I turned to look at Quinn. “You want to spar so late at night?”

            “Come on,” she pleaded.

            “…Alright.”

            Quinn dragged me deeper inside her house. We reached the training room where sets of training armor were hung on the wall. My set was already brought in from my house. It was full of dents and scratches, rips on the blank emblem that I would need to be replaced with my new family emblem. Two servants were already waiting to help us put the armor on and Quinn wasted no time in changing. I looked away as soon as she was stripped to her underwear.

            The first to go on was the plate body, then the legs and what followed was the arms and the gauntlet. The last piece was the helmet.

            “This helmet isn’t mine,” I said. The servant ignored my comment and placed it on me. The view looked strange with a thin line of visibility stretching to the sides of the helmet. I saw Quinn gazing her eyes on me and one of the servants placed a magic stone on the back of her helmet before placing it on her. The gap between her helmet glowed red and a moment later I felt something placed on the back of mines. Everything turned red.

            “Guh!” My eyes were in pain as if they were being stretched to the sides of my face and I held them shut. I tried to remove the helmet but Quinn pressed down on my head at the same time.

            “Give it a moment,” she said. “It’ll stop hurting soon.”

            True enough, the pain subsided. When I opened my eyes my view was clear and my field of vision had expanded. I held my hand to the side of my head where I should normally not be able to see it, but there it was, clear as day.

            “It’s a new prototype,” she explained, her chest seemed puffed with excitement. “I wanted you to be the first to test it out with me.”

            I looked around the room. My eyes were adjusting to what I was seeing. It was clear, but not being used to the added visibility was harder to adjust to. My legs, while I could move them without a problem the helmet made it difficult to feel where my body was facing. Quinn took out her spear and walked to the middle of the room. One of the servants handed me mines.

            “Alright,” I said. She turned around as soon as I got in the center with her. We tapped each other’s spears and took five steps back to signal the start. “Best of three.”

            Quinn thrusted her spear forward at me. With my spear I managed to divert her target but she retracted and thrust a second time, this time the tip made contact on my armor and clung loud, right where my heart was covered with many sheets of steel. The armor activated and restricted all movements and I fell to the ground.

            One of Quinn’s servants walked up to me and reset the armor which restored my movement. I removed my helmet and the stretched vision faded.

            “Come, Lily,” she said, and kept her distance. “I won’t count that as my win since you were still adjusting to the helmet.”

            “No. It’s your win,” I said. “We won’t have the luxury of making second decision in a real fight.”

            We circled each other for a good moment to strike. Quinn closed in and I took the chance to strike her spear downward, then struck her leg as she attempted to distance herself. Quinn’s armor took effect and it forced her to get on one knee as it disabled the use of the leg I hit. It seemed out of desperation that she then leapt with one leg at me, spear pointed at my abdomen. Moving to the side was simple enough. As she landed on the floor I laid on top of her, and pressed her shoulder with my leg to restrain further movement.

            “My win,” I said as I held my spear near her throat.

            She raised her hand to signal for her servants to reset our armor. I got off and Quinn stood without a problem and was ready for a third round. She tapped something on her gauntlet. It was a group of stones embedded on her gauntlet and the magic inside glowed brightly. They were magic enhancement stones.

            “If you’re going to increase your physical movements,” I said, and Quinn readied a strike, “you should try working out more.”

            Quinn lunged forward and with only a fraction of a second to react I stepped back. Quinn’s spear was many times faster now and every thrust more accurate. One strike lands a hit on my right hand and the armor answered by letting go of one grip I had on the spear. A second lunge hits my left shoulder and forced me to drop my spear.

            “I hope that stone didn’t cost you much,” I said. We stopped for a brief moment.

            “I didn’t buy it to waste its use talking!” she jumped at me without a second thought. Every step forward she made was a step I was forced back, and I counted every second. Each of her lunges struck a piece of my armor. My thigh, my abdomen, even my chest, but without enough impact that armor didn’t answer by putting a restriction on my movements. Then it caught up to her. Quinn’s raised agility showed signs of a loss in speed. Her breathing had become audible to my ears from exhaustion. Her thrust had become so slow and sluggish that little to no effort was required in dodging.

            “You can’t get better if you keep using those,” I said. Quinn dropped to the floor from complete exhaustion and her magic stones popped from using all the magic stored in them. She removed her helmet and I could see sweat dropping from her cheeks. One of the servants ran toward Quinn and poured cold water on her. The same servant reset her armor and then mine.

            “Pff!” I restrained a laughter.

            “I can’t…” she said. “I can’t move.”

            I turned her body facing up and sat on top of her. She seemed like she was about to cry and I pulled her cheeks from both sides.

            “I keep telling you to stop using magic stones when your body can’t keep up.”

            “I don’t like running,” she said, tears falling down her eyes, though not from sadness but the pain of her cheeks that turned red. “It’s too much work.”

* * *

            Quinn and I continued up the stairs and down the hallway of the right wing of the house. The room at the end belonged to her and I believe her parents used the left wing. The servants, as I remember, slept in the lower floors.

            The bedroom was kept tidy and the window invited a brilliant light from the moon. Quinn walked up to her bed and let her body fall on the surface. One of her servants walked in. An older Talician woman that I had seen in my previous visits to Quinn’s house. The head maid.

            “Lady Quinn!” she yelled. “Please take a bath first and get into your nightgown.”

            “I’m too tired… and it hurts to move,” moaned Quinn. She turned her cheek away from us. The head maid looked to me with apologetic eyes.

            “I’m so sorry for Lady Quinn’s behavior,” she said. I shook my head.

            “I’m used to it.”

            All of my things were lined up on one side of the wall. The head maid snapped her fingers and got the servant’s attention. The males left and the girls lined up.

            “We are taking Quinn to her bath,” said the head maid, and turned her eyes to me. “You’ll be joining as well, Lady Lilia?” I nodded. It would be impolite to decline. The servants picked up Quinn and carried her to the bathing room. Quinn was undressed by her servants in a matter of seconds and accepted her fate by walking to the bath room. The head maid sighed. One of the servants ran after Quinn and tried covering her body with a towel.

            “I’ll take the shower,” I said, and undressed myself. In the bathroom Quinn was already covered in soap bubbles. Her servants sponged every inch of her while the bath was being filled with hot water. One of the servants looked at me but I stopped her before she could get up. I’d rather be the one to clean myself.

            “Lily! Join me in the tub!”

            “No.” I said. I entered the shower and touched the crystal on the wall. It started glowing and from the tip I swiped down with one finger and the crystal glowed a violent red. The shower burst with hot water and I moved away from it. Boiling hot.

            “Ah!” yelled Quinn. “I forgot to mention we had a new crystal installed for the shower. It’s a bit hot.” A bit?

            “… Yep. Thanks…” I adjusted the crystal until the red turned to a yellow, and the water had become tolerable. I closed my eyes and let the water pour down my head. When I finished showering, the bathroom was empty. I dried and covered myself with a towel. Quinn was on the bed, eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling.

            “Lily.”

            “What?” I walked to my bags and looked for my nightgown under the many stacks of clothing I had packed.

            “Have you decided to join as Princess Lehvie’s guard?”

            “Yes.” I said, a smile build up on my face. If I had a tail of a god, it would probably be wagging.

            “Didn’t sound like you put much thought into it.”

            “If they will have me, I’ll be happy,” I said. “Besides, doesn’t everyone want to be closer to the royal family?”

            “So you’re doing it for status?”

            “I’m doing it because I believe it’s the best path for me to take,” I said. I found my nightgown and changed into it. At Quinn’s bed I lifted the covers and laid the sheet on top of both our bodies. Quinn locked her eyes on me.

            “Before Miss Alice left, she said something,” Quinn reminded. “Do you remember?”

            “About what happens when you get near a member of the royal family?” I asked. “I remember.”

            “She said once we get there and meet the princess, that we would know right then if we were chosen.”

            “Like standing near the sun,” I said, recalling what Miss Alice said when she met with the class. That if members of the Royal Family give off this distinct heat that would go unnoticed with proper training. Lehvie was the prime example, and there were rumors that such heat would disperse with uncontrolled emotion.

            “What are you going to do if you aren’t chosen?” she asked. I paused and looked at the ceiling. It was patterned in the shape of a flower, though I could not recognize it. I turned to look at Quinn.

            “What else can I do but simply move on?”

* * *

            The days had passed with calm winds. Our combat training ended two days before classes resumed and today, we were to meet at Queen Ellenor’s castle. It was morning. A carriage was coming for us down the road. It was also early enough that the sun could only shine on half the town because the high mountainous walls obscured its light. I looked up and breathed in that cold, fresh air. The carriage arrived. I stepped in with Quinn and signaled the driver to go.

            “We only have a few months left until graduation,” said Quinn, her hair swayed in the air by the opened window as the carriage began moving. “I kind of wanted to visit other countries before committing to the job. Did it have to be so soon?”

            “Haven’t you already done something like that?”

            “I’ve been to Stanhal’s capital, the elv’s city of Bellmawr, and even Aria to the south,” she said. “But that’s no good since it was for business with my parents.”

            “Business? What did they have you do?”

            “Show off their inventions. What else?”

            “Surely you had time to go sightseeing in between?”

            “I did,” she said. “Only once. The others I had a strict schedule of going from place to place to advertise.” She stared at me in silence.

            “What?”

            “Want to travel together for a while?” she asked just as we arrived at the palace gates.

            “I’ll think about it.”

            There were guards were standing in the dozens, all holding spears at their sides. Some were patrolling the far reaches of the castle and near the rivers that cut through the city. Each one wore the Queen’s emblem of a single phoenix at its center and a dark red, almost black, background with trimmed gold at its side. The carriage was stopped just outside the castle’s steel framed doors. Quinn opened the carriage door and let a guard face us.

            “Identify yourselves,” he ordered.

            “Lilia,” I said. “of the Licia Night Owl.”

            “And where is your emblem?” he asked.

            “My family only recently received a house emblem,” I explained. The guard turned his gaze on my friend.

            “Quinn, of the Talician Red Raven.”

            The guard closed the carriage door and tapped on its wood, letting the driver continue inside past the gate. The carriage rode along a stretch of grass on the road until we reached the castle’s courtyard. A great many students wearing their uniforms gathered there as we got out of carriage, all of them wearing their house emblem on this special occasion, and all of their emblems worn on their left. There were more students that arrived by the minute. Others formed neat lines that faced the castle’s doors and Quinn insisted we do the same and we found ourselves lined up in the near last row. After some time, students from our academy stopped coming. From far away I could see the same gates we went through being closed and a horn was played. Everyone’s chatter was silenced.

            There was a row of stairs covered in a tyrian purple carpet. A very young girl about three years old walked through the door and was accompanied by Miss Alice. Her little red ribbons were a lighter shade from her hair and her white dress made her stand out to Miss Alice’s black. There was a long pause she took before making her first move down the steps. I felt it. I understood exactly what Miss Alice had in mind when she wanted to recruit people to be Princess Lehvie’s guards. I’m sure everyone did.

            There was this heat, very uncomfortable as if our home star was many times closer. We were in the presence of Royalty. We all stared as the young Princess continued walking down the stairs. That dark red distinct hair she had, much darker than Quinn’s was more than enough proof that she was a real relative of the Royal Family, the daughter of Princess Glinn future Queen of Talica.

            More than twenty guards lined up on both sides of Princess Lehvie. Every step closer she made was the equivalent of a spike in temperature. She was so small and yet so dangerous for her age. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like just finding someone she could play with.

            They stopped. I was sweating profusely and saw that Quinn next to me was in better shape. She was right. I stepped back just as others did who couldn’t handle the heat. One guard clapped his hands and got everyone’s attention.

            “Please welcome her Royal Highness, Princess of Talica, Lehvie Ellenor Meridith Lician.”

            Everyone kneeled before her Royal Highness. She seemed a little shy and a little forceful when she showed us confidence as she stepped forward without Miss Alice to guide her further.

            “If you cannot endure the heat for long then you have found your answer. That will be the end of phase one for you,” the guard to everyone in the coartyard. If I’m correct, she was captain of the guards. Some started leaving after bowing the princess goodbye, and I found myself in support of Quinn.

            “You going to be alright?” she asked.

            “Y-yeah,” I stuttered. We stayed kneeling for another ten minutes without the princess moving any closer. Almost everyone in the front had already bowed to the princess and left to be away from her harming nature.

            “Beck,” said Miss Alice, there were two students that remained in the front rows, still kneeling. Princess Lehvie walked over to one student. The student was a male and as he spoke I recognized his voice. It was the same student that made a ruckus in class when Miss Alice spoke to us about joining as a guard to Princess Lehvie.

            “Your Royal Highness,” he said.

            “Ranked four in your senior class,” Miss Alice was reading off from a list. “Son under the emblem White Tailed Eeagle. Give us your word. Your oath.” Beck clasped his hand, as if in prayer and in full submission.

            “I promise on my faith that I will now and forever be faithful to the lord, never cause her harm and will observe my homage to her completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit. I am yours. I follow only your word and ignore all else.”

            Princess Lehvie offered her hand to Beck and completed the oath between lord and vassal the moment they made contact. She moved his family emblem from his left shoulder to his right, and placed a new emblem, Unity, on his left shoulder nearest his heart. A Phoenix bearing a shield. Princess Lehvie walked over to the second person still kneeling, another young man. Miss Alice stopped the princess before she got any closer and had her face away. The student fell on the floor and a two guards walked to him and helped him stand. His face was red and clothes wet in sweat.

            “Get him to the infirmary,” order the captain of the guards. Miss Alice then guided the princess towards the students in the back rows, slow to take each step to give us breathing room to back out in safety. People were standing up and bowing at the princess, then leaving until there was only three of us left. Quinn was sweating a little and the Princess was heading directly toward us. The Princess was no more than five feet away me. Standing directly in front of Quinn and with Miss Alice right behind her Royal Highness.

            “Ranked three in your senior class,” Miss Alice began reading from the list once more. “Daughter under the emblem Talician Red Raven. Give us your word. Your oath.” Quinn clasped her hand, again, as if in prayer and submission.

            “I promise on my faith that I will…” I heard Quinn. My eyes losing their light and my balance in the process of being collapsed. Before I lost all consciousness, I felt someone hold me.

END.

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Author’s Note: Hope you enjoyed. It took longer because I was indecisive about adding certain parts in, but overall the part two was extended! Royal Rebirth is no longer on hold. Next Chapter will be chapter one, volume two, of Royal Rebirth.

Also, I have changed the royal family last name from Winsor to Lician (for obvious reasons. Lol…)

Thank you for reading.

P. S. I’ll still be working on The First Deities while I work on R. R. – It just means releases will take longer.

V. 1.3.3 – Kerbeck -> Beck